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Wall-Ennui

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With a few notable exceptions, the number of documentaries around AI is not commensurate with the amount of words, talk, and money around the sector. And most of those out there tend to be of the dystopic variety. True to its title, HBO’s The Truth About Killer Robots is in a similarly Wall-E-meets-Terminator vein, running through various areas—work, service, and society—where robotics and automation are disrupting the way we work, sometimes fatally. Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics is invoked more than once, of course. More than fatalities, though, director Maxim Pozdorovkin’s doc portrays a world of jobs, daily drives, and other quotidian tasks made simple and ultimately boring by the very robots and automation that are meant to liberate us for more substantial or creative work. Sometimes humans just become an extension of the robotics, as anyone who has ever worked on or witnessed an assembly line well knows. This perspective is the result of the filmmaker’s refreshing inclusion of interviews with actual workers, who are able to give first-hand commentary on automation’s effects, rather than just the rosy AI-human collaboration party line of so many a techno- and corporate-pundit. As a twentysomething worker at Shenzhen, China’s Foxconn factory, where iPhones are made, puts it: “I feel like I’m turning into a robot.” 
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